Wedding photographers are used to all sorts of unreasonable demands from their clients, but this recent Facebook debacle reaches new heights of absurdity.
Florida-based photography company Clarence Simpson Photography recently got a taste of the surreal when a client posted a long, detailed review of their engagement and wedding shoots on an Orlando Facebook group. In the post, the client said they had cancelled a scheduled wedding shoot because of what they viewed as an excessive “amount of distortion in the background” of the images from their engagement photos.
This might sound fair enough on the face of it. But when you actually look at the images posted, they have clearly been executed to an exemplary standard. The “distortion” that the client is complaining about appears to be the effect of a shallow depth of field, a.k.a. an extremely common and popular photography technique. Being able to vary depth of field is hugely important for any photographer, and is a key factor when choosing the best cameras or even the best cameras for beginners.
The post is still online, for now, so you can read it yourself in the Orlando Wedding Ideas Facebook group (opens in new tab).
Shallow depth of field is where the main subject of an image is rendered sharply and in focus, while the background is artfully blurred. It is near-ubiquitous in portrait photography, and very common in wedding photography; it’s the effect that Portrait Mode on your iPhone is simulating. Creating good shallow depth of field with pleasing bokeh (which refers to the shape of the distortion and how it interacts with points of light) requires a lens with a large maximum aperture and a many-bladed diaphragm, which tends to cost quite a lot of money.
The photography community was not impressed, and rallied in force to defend the photographer’s good name. At time of writing, the original post has more than 5,700 comments, and they tend not to be in support of the client.
One commenter asked, “Why even hire a photographer if you wanted GoPro style quality with everything in focus? That distortion is created on the spot and burnt into the photo. If you’re wanting specific things you have to clarify that in the contract or else you will get what their portfolio shows and it seems you saw that part.”
Another said, more succinctly, “Their whole portfolio was that way… yet… you… hired… them…”
The people at Clarence Simpson Photography are handling this with a lot of class and grace – even though the original poster had stated an intention to take them to civil court to recoup some money. On their own Facebook page (opens in new tab), they posted that they were, "Overwhelmed with joy from all of the love & support received from community, peer photographers, strangers and friends!" They reminded people not to be personally mean or offensive to the person in question – which is always a good thing to keep in mind.
They also announced an intention to raise their prices, which we have to think is fair enough. If this got you inspired to shoot some of your own shallow depth-of-field photos then check out our guides to the best low-light cameras and the best cameras for wildlife photography. You can be sure that the wildlife won’t complain about “distortion”.